Understanding the Difference Between Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction

Understanding the Difference Between Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction

The terms “drug abuse” (substance abuse) and “drug addiction” (substance addiction) may often be confused and used interchangeably. Although on the surface they appear similar, there is a clear difference between the terms.

Drug Abuse

An individual who abuses a drug, be it marijuana, cocaine, alcohol, or other altering substances, may not be addicted to it. Abuse refers to using these substances in an inappropriate manner, but their abuse does not appear to have significant effects on their life, as it often appears casual. 

Substance abuse is more common than people think, and this is because of its casual nature. To illustrate, what is defined as moderate drinking is up to one drink a day for women and up to two a day for men. Drinking more than that is considered alcohol abuse.

Simply put, abuse occurs when an individual uses substances as a way to alleviate stress and physical symptoms and to encourage feelings of pleasure. It also occurs, when someone uses prescription drugs for reasons other than what the prescription states.

Drug Addiction

The key difference between drug abuse and drug addiction is that, although both are damaging behaviors, abuse still involves choice; addiction does not.

When individuals become addicted to a substance, it’s extremely hard for them to stop using it. It is very easy for drug abuse to become a drug addiction, so at the point of addiction, what was once meant as a brief mind-altering experience has developed into a long-established chemical imbalance in the brain, resulting in mental disorder and strong chemical dependency.

Addiction is not casual by any means. It is the continued use of a drug despite the damaging consequences the individual faces, such as relationship, legal, and health problems.

Furthermore, drug or alcohol addiction is accompanied by signs of withdrawal. Withdrawal refers to debilitating physical and emotional problems that occur after decreased use of the substance an individual is addicted to. Symptoms will depend on the substance, but in general, they may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Depression
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

Sacred Oak Offers Outpatient Programs for Chemical Dependency

At Sacred Oak Medical Center in Houston, we offer specialized supportive outpatient therapy and intensive outpatient therapy programs to help those who suffer an addiction move past their underlying chemical dependency. Through our group therapy sessions and individual therapy sessions, our patients will better understand their addiction and learn healthy ways to recover from it. If you or someone you know may be suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, please schedule an assessment so we can start charting the path to recovery.